Going into Thursday night, no one had heard of Nick Mullens. The former University of Southern Mississippi quarterback languished on the practice squad of the San Francisco 49ers last season, waiting of an opportunity to get on the field. Well, with Jimmy Garoppolo out for the season with a knee injury and backup CJ Beathard out for Thursday night's game versus the Oakland Raiders, Mullens got his opportunity to be the starter. No one knew what to expect from him and many thought the gameplan would be heavily influenced by the run game to protect him. Well, the 49ers surprised us all by letting Mullens run the full offense with no restrictions and he dominated the Raiders defense. The second-year pro finished the game 16 of 22 for 262 yards and three touchdowns on the way to a dominating 34-3 win over the Raiders. After the game, there were many 49ers fans that felt he should be the starter going forward even when Garoppolo comes back from injury next season. Those folks who are caught in the moment may want to pump their brakes.
Mullens did look very good on this past Thursday night, but let's take it all in prospective. The team he was playing, the Oakland Raiders, are talked about as the worst team in the NFL along with the Buffalo Bills. The Raiders defense he was facing was ranked 22nd in the NFL. They have no defensive backs that scare anyone and it seemed like the 49ers were having a seven-on-seven practice out there instead of actually playing against a team. Add in the Raiders are dead last in sacks in the NFL and have no one that can get consistent pressure on the quarterback and the game was tailor-made for Mullens to succeed. And to his credit, he did what he was supposed to do and took what they gave him. No offense to Mullens, but he had a great situation for his first start and he took advantage of it.
Going forward, if Mullens is expected to start the next game, then he will be going against the 18th ranked passing defense in the New York Giants. While the Giants are not that good offensively, they are better defensively than the hapless Raiders. Against New York, Mullens could get more of a rude awakening than what he received against the Raiders. The Giants definitely can create more pressure defensively than the Raiders and they definitely have a defensive back or two that can make you pay for mistakes. Let's say he plays well against the Giants, then he has the 29th ranked defense in the Tampa Bay Buccaneers up next. The road is there for the hype to build for Mullens, but people have to remember that each game is a new game and although his performance was special, it won't be like that all the time for him.
Those that viewed Mullens as the next coming maybe viewed Jimmy Garoppolo the same way and when he first started games, he won five straight, got paid and was thought to be the franchise quarterback. What happened was teams had time to get tape on him, figured some things out about him and then he was trying to work through things when he got injured. Mullens, if the Niners go with him, would go through the same things but he may get figured out quicker and then we shall see if he has what it takes to be the starter for the 49ers. Until then, people may want to slow down on anointing him the next great 49ers quarterback.